|The last days of Changsha had two of the most memorable parts of my stay in China.
One of them is the baby dinner I went to with ZhouTian and celebrating this little baby girl who was only one month old with a big dinner filled with many family and friends. It is an traditional custom, which reflects the times when it was really uncertain whether a baby would make it through the first month of life. It was just a big garage filled with tons of people and a cute little baby. Such a valuable thing.
We got to the party in the mid-morning. We took off from Candy's house going in the opposite direction of Changsha city, winding through some crop fields along rocky hilly ground, along a little country road. Always, these are times when I realize how small I am and how big China is. I am just one American in a big country traveling to places I know nothing about...and I've never felt so fulfilled. At home, I can get lost in the woods, but I can always find my way home. Here though, I am just alone and I can only rely on myself and the help of people who only a few months ago were strangers, and there is something that gives me hope in the world that I can do it...and that there are people who help me along.
Of course I know that I am a privileged person, and that the hospitality I receive is not universal...but I do believe it gives a certain amount of legitimacy to the old creed: God helps those who help themselves. I believe I just got lucky enough to have confidence and the opportunity to follow whatever current flows to me, and enough stillness within to recognize what it is I want...and a lot of good fortune and luck.
Soooo....we are driving to this party and it is in the middle of a Chinese theme park of sorts. The place is old and run-down a bit, but there is a clean smelling lake near and the pines and oaks give the place a feeling of home, yay! So we get out of the car, and all of the people at the party are hanging outside the food building standing in the perfect light rays of the sunshine and chatting, while other ladies are busy in the kitchen cooking on the dinner. Then, Candy's family friend takes us to go on some of the theme park rides, like bumper cars and go-karts. It brought flashbacks of my childhood when once a year my family would go to the little run-down theme park outside of town and ride go-karts and bumper cars. It's been so long I can't even remember the name of that place, but it had that exact feeling I remember as a kid, except it was 1000 miles and fifteen years from that time. Life is full of conundrums.
Then there was a good dinner to eat. I got to sit next to Grandma Candy and enjoy my last big meal with Candy and her family. I could never repay them for the hospitality and openness they have given me. I thought that Fujian would be the highlight of my time in China, and before that I thought it would be Guizhou. Always I think...Ok, I can go home now because it isn't going to get any more amazing than this, but always it gets better and better. Pray for me that this is a lifelong trend. :) :) Hahahaha...
After, Candy and her other friends from school headed back to Zhuhai and I spent my final night chatting and hanging out with Candy's littlest sister. She is a really great kid. The weather was still cold and it really affected me poorly during my travels. I think because last summer I was out camping and the weather was rainy and cold, but I borrowed my coat and hat to a camper and then got really really cold and wet and suffered from a horrible ear ache and fever the next week, and ever since I can't tolerate cold. Ugh. So, I headed to bed early and then came the next day and the final thing I will never forget about Changsha...
Meet Calvin. Calvin is ZhouTian's friend who I stayed with my last day in Changsha. He is a really unforgettable guy. He is that character in a book that you are always loyal too and always want the best for. He's the kind of person who should get all their dreams because they are so honest and kind. I have a picture of him.
That day he hung out with me, gave me a tour of his neighborhood, and he took me to his middle school to look around. I didn't bring my camera, but it was about the same condition as ZhouTian's elementary school. The only difference is here there were sparsely furnished dorms. Just a room with four to six beds in it where middle school students lived during the week, with a big cafeteria near-by where they got their food and sat around wooden tables. It was a lot older and more sparse than Bruce's sister's high school, which reflects the lack of prestige and also the poverty of the area in comparison to places along the coast. I'm so glad I got to go home after school. I've been teaching again this semester at the elementary school in Zhuhai, and I will post more pictures so you can compare the school in Zhuhai with this one.
Anyway, then Calvin took me to dinner with some of his family members and afterward we went to sing karaoke with his family and some other people in the neighborhood. So awesome. It was just a room with a projector and lots of songs to sing along with. Many Chinese people love this. It's really entertaining. I wish it would catch on in the U.S. Listening to his mom sing some song from the 70's...hahaha. I graced them all with some backstreet boys. They were impressed. It was fun. A perfect end to an amazing stay. Probably I won't ever visit Changsha again because I would be disappointed. Some people tally the places they have seen and the famous things they have visited and the books they have read and the languages they know, but really places and languages are just tools that enable you to have great experiences. So maybe I haven't seen the best places in China and I sure do suck at the language, but I don't let it bother me because I know what's most important: I know how to have a good time. :)
My train left for Tianjin at 11 pm that night from the city, so Calvin and his dad drove me to the station and dropped me off. Calvin. What a great final impression. It was more than a 15 hour ride, so I said good-bye to the cold rainy Changsha and hopped on my first sleeper train of the trip, found my third story bunk bed amid the half-lit train car, chatted with my car-mates a bit, (they had two adorable little boys...we shared some candy) and soon I fell asleep as the train the wound it's way along the tracks through the Changsha mountains.
That's Changsha. 2 months after. I hope I did an ok job. It's 4:30. I can't write anymore without sounding like a robot.
Only Tianjin, Hong Kong, Dongguan, and YingDe to go....ahhhh....adventure is awesome.
Miss you all! Take Care!